The Sasol Rally, round two of the 2013 SA Rally Championship, is one that Castrol Team Toyota has won seven times since the first event 21 years ago in 1992, three times with the Conquest, twice with the RunX and twice with the Auris.
This year the factory team will tackle the longest and toughest rally of the year, in Mpumalanga on April 19 and 20, with the brand new Yaris.
The latest in a long line of successful Toyota rally machines has been designed and built by Toyota Motorsport at the team’s Kyalami workshop. It made its national rally championship debut in the season-opening Total Rally in KwaZulu-Natal and despite a lack of testing Leeroy Poulter and Elvene Coetzee finished fourth after running third until the final special stage. Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan scored the Yaris’s maiden special stage victory and, between them, the two Castrol Team Toyota crews compiled an impressive 10 top-three stage finishes.
Both Gemmell and Poulter have tasted victory in the Sasol Rally, Gemmell in 2007 in a Castrol RunX and again in 2009 in a Castrol Auris and Poulter in 2011 in his first year in S2000 in a Castrol Auris.
A third Yaris, in the colours of Imperial Toyota, has been built since the Total Rally for Giniel de Villiers and new co-driver Greg Godrich, who finished sixth in the season-opener in an Auris.
“Building a brand new rally car from scratch is a major undertaking, but we had a good data base on which to create the rally version of the two-door Yaris, even if we were a bit pressed for time after the end of the 2012 season,” said team principal Glyn Hall, national rally champion in 1990.
“We’ve incorporated everything we’ve learnt from its predecessors, who won their fair share of rallies; now it’s a case of getting the kilometres under the belt, testing and evaluating the options.
“To be honest, our initial testing took place during the Total Rally and we were more than happy with the results. We had some issues and we’ve addressed these. We’ve also managed to fit in quite a bit of testing with the two Castrol cars in the six weeks between rallies, but I have to admit I wish we’d been able to do more.
“Giniel’s new car will only be ready the day before the Sasol Rally, so unfortunately he’ll be going into this event without any testing. However, we’re confident we have a competitive package and that all three crews will give a good account of themselves.”
The Sasol Rally starts in the Sabie market square in Mpumalanga at 10.00 on Friday (April 19) and ends in Nelspruit on Saturday (April 20). The route covers some 600 kilometres of which 210 are 15 timed special stages – three on tarmac (in the towns of Sabie, White River and Nelspruit), 11 on gravel in the York Timber forests near Sabie, Graskop, White River and Hendriksdal and a final, short stage on grass in the Lowveld Showgrounds.
STORY BY TOYOTA